Purdue Wildlife Area​ (PWA)

Purdue property Wildlife Area, grass with smoke from prescribed fire.

The foundational property of what is now the Purdue Wildlife Area (PWA) was acquired in 1958, and, with the acquisition of two additional tracts, the property now provides 290 acres of land for educational, extension, and research activities in Tippecanoe County. PWA is primarily managed to maintain and enhance its current wetland/savannah/prairie ecosystem which is part of the Indian Creek watershed.


Purdue Property Wildlife Area, aerial view.

Throughout its history, PWA has been central to the education of hundreds of natural resources professionals as well as a center for diverse research activities.

Research facilities include:

  • a modern animal care facility
  • a wildlife kennel
  • 290 acres


8000 State Road 26
West Lafayette, IN 47907

Current ResearchStudents and staff in fire gear for prescribed fire burn, Purdue Wildlife Area

Researchers who wish to conduct research at PWA must have their project approved. Please fill out the FNR Property Request (use the FNR property use request ) for approval.

New Building

Wildlife Ecology Research Facility (WERF).The Wildlife Ecology Research Facility (WERF) is a state-of-the-art building that expands the capacity for wildlife-based research in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. Research at WERF will include answering questions about the ecology, ecotoxicology, and disease ecology for a wide array of species.

WERF greatly increases the amount of available space for research by providing six independently controlled experiment rooms with a full range of environmental controls. Animal care rooms are specifically designed for flexibility of the occupants, both in the types of research (general and refined) and types of species (aquatic and terrestrial) that can be housed in the facility. WERF also features a high-efficiency HVAC system with adjustable temperature and humidity controls in each room, customizable for the needs of individual research projects. Each research room is ventilated separately to prevent spread of airborne pathogens as well as to isolate odors. Each research space also includes an entry vestibule where items can be prepared and assembled before moving into the secured lab area to allow researchers to work more efficiently. A large common space also is provided for improved collaborations.

The building will also house equipment, supplies, and other necessities to support outdoor research activities.

  • 4,700-square foot facility
  • 6 independent animal research rooms with entry vestibules
  • Full range of light, temperature, and humidity controls
  • Central general-use research area
  • Biosafety cabinet for work with biological agents
  • Fume hood for work with chemicals
  • Office space for students
  • Laundry facility

WERF was made possible by a $2 million contribution from the John S. Wright endowment and a generous $1 million donation from the estate of Roger (BS1950) and Sarah Voyles. The building is located at the Purdue Wildlife Area, a 159-acre department owned property with forest, prairie and wetland habitats.

For photo gallery and more information regarding the WERF building view: Updates Under Way at Purdue Wildlife Area, Martell Forest.

WERF Lab Manager: Abigail (Abby) Valachovic, avalacho@purdue.edu.

Unique Features

Water drainage pipe in wetland area, Purdue Wildlife Area.

Historically, northwestern Indiana was a complex matrix of tall-grass prairie, wetlands, oak savannah, and woodlands, most of which has been converted for agricultural use. Intact wetland, prairie, and savannah ecosystems, which at one time were abundant, are now especially unique in this region.

Wetlands - The most defining characteristic of PWA is its wetlands. Prior to European settlement wetlands covered much of northern Indiana; however, the majority of these have been drained for farming. This makes PWA’s wetlands a unique feature that should be preserved for its benefits to wildlife and to the Indian Creek watershed. PWA’s marshes are emergent marshes typified by water depths of 6 inches to 3 feet. PWA contains 2 wetland marshes that hold water all year (33 acres and 24 acres). There are also several ephemeral wetlands on the property that support wetland-dependent flora and fauna.

Goal: Enhance and maintain wetlands to benefit migratory waterfowl and other wetland dependent plants and animals

Prairie - PWA is located within the Grand Prairie Natural Region; therefore, a large portion of PWA will be established and/or maintained as native prairie vegetation. Additionally, native prairies are one of the most imperiled ecosystems in Indiana and the eastern United States.

Goal: To develop and maintain a matrix of interconnected grasslands to provide ample habitat for early successional-specific flora and fauna that were once common in the Grand Prairie Natural Region.

Oak Savannah - Oak Savannah ecosystems once existed in conjunction with Indiana’s prairies, often acting as a gradient between the woodlands and the prairies. Today, because of urban sprawl, agriculture, and fire suppression, intact oak savannahs are nearly gone from the landscape. However, the past land use of PWA has made it possible to restore oak savannahs in some locations. We are now expanding our existing oak savannah by clearing the invasive shrubs and reintroducing native grasses and flowers, creating an oak savannah ecosystem.

Goal: Establish and maintain oak savannahs, creating a gradient between prairie and woodlands.

Invasive Species Management

(1958-2014) – Shortly after Purdue FNR obtained the property, they began planting trees and shrubs to fill in the blank landscape. Many of these plantings remain today. Unfortunately, at that time it was a popular practice to plant exotic species. Bush honeysuckle, autumn olive, multi-flora rose, Amur maple, and many other exotic/invasive species were planted on the property. As we now know, this practice leads to catastrophic results for native species. Eventually the invasive species spread throughout the property and prevented regeneration of native species. The magnitude of the problem wasn’t realized until sometime in the late 1990’s.

(2014-present) – 127.8 acres of heavily invaded acres have been treated and have been or are in the process of being converted to native vegetation.

Invasives, Purdue Wildlife Area. Loader clearing invasives, Purdue Wildlife Area.

Property Manager, Maps & More About Our Research

Brian Beheler
Phone: 765-496-5015
Fax: 765-583-3512
Email: behelerb@purdue.edu

Abigail (Abby) Valachovic, WERF Lab Manager
Email: avalacho@purdue.edu
WERF building
8000 State Road 26
West Lafayette, IN 47906

Learn about our nine Research Areas and meet our world-class faculty members.

Allied research centers seek to support and enhance the research and partnership enterprise at Purdue University. The centers are valued and encouraged as they create a venue for faculty to come together to pursue common goals. Forestry and Natural Resources faculty and staff are involved in six centers at the University.

The Department of Forestry and Natural Resources maintains an impressive collection of state-of-the-art research and education facilities. These labs, green houses, and educational facilities are a fundamental component that enables our faculty and students to learn, make new discoveries, and engage our clients in using these discoveries to sustain our nation’s ecosystems and natural resources.​